USS Fitzgerald Editorial - gCaptain has stirred the hornets nest


100% agree but since the course is required I think it should be covered.




Forums like this that get people with some great and varied experience that discuss the details of all kinds of marine incidents is infinetly more helpful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that Leadership and Management course were more of a brain storming atmosphere such as this forum rather than what it is. Usually courses like this are born as a reactionary solution to avoid lawsuits (for example - As soon as there are a sexual harassment claim wthere th in a company everyone is required to be retrained which really only increases the resentment and closes off minds - it never works to prevent anything). To cover due diligence yes, take the required course over but it doesn’t help prevent these types of incidents.


The area where the incidence took place , early in the morning, it reminds me lot with few factors that contributed the accident…Haze condition during the Northern Summer period -starts fm May,dense traffic with crossing situation within normal traffic lane from Uraga Suido( Tokyo bay ports) to Irago Suido ( Nagoya or adjacents ports), speedy vessels with PCC/Container coupled with Japan coaster-Kinkai vessels , intend to pick up pilots early in the morning.Wondering how the USS navy ship following the normal Commercial busy lane where no VTIS coverage similar to Singapore strait…they shud be slightly out of lane to avoid such incidence. Regret to say, Navy personnel are poor in Navigation in all nationality with factors that compiled by Captain Conrad are very legitimate based on my 30 yrs sailing exp with at least 20 yrs of exp within the waters where incidence took place.Meanwhile, i too dislike number of Filipino style of navigation…last EMSA findings in 2014 made them improvement but ROR with Navigation is the art of seamanship, grooms with experience…As report came in, Master of container vsl was in right within ROR on the other we need to see some comments/feedback fm US Navy OOW since CO wasnt in presence in bridge at the time of accident …awaits on feedback


Part 1 was an excellent piece, Mr. Konrad. So why are you defending it from criticism by a bunch of apologists for the navy who are so insulated from reality that they think the US Navy is a world and a law unto itself? Who cares whether or not you’ve ever sailed in the combat control center of a naval vessel (or swabbed out the heads, for that matter?) That has nothing to do with the subject at hand, which is preventing collisions between vessels in international waters. What you are reporting on is a situation governed, not by US Navy regulations, but by INTERNATIONAL regulations, to which even the exalted US Navy is expected to adhere, JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS. The most important aspect of collision avoidance is PREDICTABILITY, the absence of which contributes to confusion and greatly increased risk of close encounters or worse. But predictability goes out the window when dealing with naval vesels, whose commanders seem to assume they can do anything the want, whenever they want, and the rest of us will just have to put up with it and try to stay the hell out of their way. It’s perfectly OK if they must cling their parochial reliance on relative rather than true bearings, ranges in yards rather than nautical miles, and left and right instead of port and starboard (God help us if a sailor does an about-face and loses his relative bearings), but the least they can do is allow the rest of us to go about our business at sea in adherence to the COLREGS, while giving them very wide berth and hoping they don’t do something erratic enough to cause a collision.


I cannot wait to read new USN comments…


It wasn’t written as a defense, and certainly not an apology - it was intended as more of an explanation on why there is such a wide divide between the two communities and the reasons why I believe the topic is important.


Thanks for the reply John. What annoys me more than anything is how your critics, who would tend to consider the navy blameless in any circumstances, question your experience and qualifications to form a valid opinion on the incident at all. Having served in the real maritime world rather than the US Navy is exactly what makes you a more objective, unbiased observer of this subject in the first place. The USN has always been a pain in the ass to have to deal with, but recently they’ve become so erratic and incompetent that their ships should be considered hazards to navigation.

Please keep up the superb reporting.

Best regards,



Not sure if this has been posted yet, but here is a Military Times article saying every criticism that’s been made here about Navy captains. Seems like many older and retired Navy ship drivers agree with y’all. RIP that guy’s inbox, I wonder if the author will get the sane kind of reaction we saw in the forums here since it’s insiders who are saying it this time.


This is a chilling reaction to someone with this problem.

As the search-and-rescue effort to find 10 missing sailors was underway in the South China Sea in late August, the Navy’s top officer said one option for addressing concerns about Navy seamanship and readiness was to look to the defense industry for help.

“We’re always operating systems, right? And those systems are provided by our industrial partners,” Richardson said. “So, we want to make sure we’re looking as compressively as possible in terms of optimizing or improving the way we use those systems.”

Even I can tell you’re barking up the wrong tree Admiral.


Someone apparently later clarified that the Admiral was speaking in broader terms, more meaning finding a way to better use / display / optimize the systems and information we already have.

Obviously there’s something wrong, naval ships have far more information than cargo carriers, and yet here we are.

My opinion would be it’s a mix of issues, coming down to a lack of basic seamanship training and ability, and an inability to process or correctly use all of the information available to watchstanders.


I believe you are being too generous in your interpretation. When someone says something like “looking as compressively as possible” this is a sign they are floundering. What gobbledygook. Do you seriously believe the lack of defense contractor participation in the care and feeding of bridge watchstanders is a big part of the problem? That if they had just one more display or system everything would be fine? If the navy wants one they’ll get one and some people will be enriched by the transaction but not sure it will get to the root of the problem. The experienced officers quoted in the article seem to have a pretty good idea of what is needed as well as the naval officers contributing to the discussion here.


That plaques military vessels and civilian alike. Not giving the Navy a free pass here, but there are still plenty of incidents with civilian vessels as well.

It might be due to fatigue, distractions, lack of knowledge, inexperience, wishful thinking when assessing hazards, or poor procedures in attempting to use the information in front of us. And in the case of a collision it also includes a combination of both and possibly coupled with the same issues affecting a navigation watch officer on the bridge another ship in our area.

But that last section you wrote could sum a lot of incidents, well said.


If they had an integrated ARPA/ECDIS display available to the OOD and if they were trained to use it they may have been fine.


I’m not saying a whole new system is needed, but maybe there’s too many places to look on a bridge(multiple radar screens, the nav screen, etc). Sure some people can pull it off just fine, but some can’t. There’s an argument to be made that if they can’t the Navy should just say "Sorry 'bout it, here go into a different officer career path or maybe this isn’t for you), but I’ve legit only seen that happen once.

But I do believe you’re correct that the over arching problem here is a lack of seamanship on the bridge. The Fitzgerald case absolutely proves this(I’m willing to give a bit of a pass on the McCain, or at least withhold judgement until we hear the full story of whatever the casualty was). There is absolutely no excuse for not knowing that ship is there, nor taking a hit full on your starboard side forward. That’s just an outright failure in watchstanding on multiple levels, and it got people killed.


The difference is a civilian vessel isn’t a powerful, state if the art ship of war with a score of people on watch.

Civilian ships have cheap equipment and one or two people on watch and could almost be excused for going bump in the night.

A warship simply doesn’t have that excuse.


Relatively speaking, yes the equipment is cheaper due to the owner’s desire to spend a minimal amount and mostly only on what’s legally required (and of course some owners need to be forced to even do the legal minimum), but that IMO “wheelmark” has a pretty big price tag once it gets stamped on an item.

Couple people on watch, yeah. So a naval vessel should be able to do more with more (in terms of people available). Instead, I get the impression that they do less with more.

I aim to make sure I never am in a position to be needing the Coast Guard or NTSB “excuse me,” since that just won’t fly. That being said, I do feel sorry that the crews of these two merchant vessels had a close encounter of a navy kind. Even if in the long run a court finds those vessels and officers at minimal fault, it’s a bad situation for them.


All bulbous bows are bulbous. In this photo the bulb is underwater.


I left my last ship in 1987, and retired in 1993. As I said in another post, I mourn the loss of the Navy I knew. I had no idea of the changes that were made, or the resulting effects on the SWO community.


I am willing to stipulate the above if you’ll stipulate that to get to that point you don’t have to turn to defense contractors to build it from scratch either with regard to the hardware or the training and maybe especially NOT for the training part. And most especially not to have them define the scope of the problem for you because you (top echelon of navy brass) got disconnected from ship ops over the decades.

So IF they had it and IF they were trained they MAY have been fine. And if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle.

Nonetheless I take your point but I’m more concerned this top guy is learning the wrong lesson. It’s starting to smell fishy but perhaps I owe him a closer reading.